Britain’s informal carers who help to look after vulnerable family members or friends with little or no monetary support are having to fork out an extra £200 a year for energy.

That’s according to new research, which says the figure is an increase of 14% from last year.

It also found more than a third (35%) of informal carers have struggled to pay their energy bills at some stage and bill worries have affected the wellbeing of two in five carers.

Price comparison site uSwitch says the needs of people the community of 6.5 million informal carers look after are a major factor in their energy bills being higher than other billpayers, with 71% of them having to keep the heating on for longer than they would otherwise.

It also found less than a third (32%) of informal carers receive the Winter Fuel Allowance of between £100 and £300, which is only available to people aged 65 and above, or the Carers Allowance (30%) of up to £66.15 a week.

The findings have been released during Carers Week 2019, an annual campaign to raise awareness of caring and highlight the challenges unpaid carers face as well as recognise their contribution to families and communities throughout the UK.

Rik Smith, Energy Expert at uSwitch said: “Informal carers often find themselves in a lose/lose situation: their commitment to the loved ones they care for can make it hard to maintain full time employment, yet also demands higher energy use. The pressure they are under to look after vulnerable friends or family while also trying to balance the bills can be unbearable and the cost of energy is placing a particular strain on them.

“We believe the government should simplify access to the Warm Home Discount scheme so energy customers don’t have to struggle with complicated eligibility criteria to get the support they need. Likewise, we’re urging informal carers to sign up to the Priority Services Register through their supplier so they can be assured of priority support in an emergency as well as other practical help managing their energy account.”